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International News
Legal Battles Over Indian Pharmaceutical Patent Law

October 2, 2012

Financial Times Examines Legal Disputes in India Over Pharmaceutical Patent Laws
The Financial Times reports on a legal dispute between the Indian government and the German pharmaceutical group Bayer, writing, "Bayer is appealing against the Indian patent controller's decision in March to override the company's monopoly on its cancer drug Nexavar, and to allow an Indian company to produce and sell the life-extending drug for just $173 a month -- one-sixth of the $5,500 a month price charged by Bayer." According to the newspaper, "If Bayer loses the appeal, and the court upholds the compulsory license issued to Natco, a generics producer based in the central Indian city of Hyderabad, the precedent could encourage other Indian manufacturers to follow its lead by producing cheap generic versions of high-priced, patented drugs that are out of the reach of all but the wealthiest Indians."

"In another important case, India's Supreme Court this month began to hear final arguments in an appeal from Novartis of Switzerland, which has fought unsuccessfully since 2006 for a patent for its cancer treatment Glivec," the Financial Times notes. "But the Bayer case is causing the greatest concern, because it could encourage other generic producers to offer cut-price versions of drugs to overturn patents," the newspaper adds (Jack/Kazmin, 10/1).

Two Court Cases Could Affect Medicines Patent Law in India
In the PLoS "Speaking of Medicine" blog, Leena Menghaney, a lawyer and India manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres, writes about "two critical legal battles between multinational pharmaceutical companies and the Indian government [that] are taking center stage in an ongoing struggle over India's medicines patent law." Before describing each case in detail, she summarizes, "One case goes to the heart of what merits a patent. The other addresses what countries can do when patented life-saving medicines are priced out of reach for the vast majority of patients." Menghaney concludes, "The world is watching closely, as these cases could have a profound impact on access to life-saving medicines for millions of people worldwide" (10/1).

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